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July 28, 2011

If at first you don't succeed: make a wordle and call it a day.

Every data project goes through an embryonic Wordle stage. There's a point where you've spent a few hours futzing with code, are many more hours away from whatever you were trying to build, and feel aw, screw it, let's make some pictures.

In that spirit: headlines from the Guardian and the Mail, these past couple of days:

Guardian headlines
Mail headlines

The somewhat less pointless use of the data will come When I Get Round To It™ -- which, given current circumstances, might not be for quite some time.

July 11, 2011

Just how insignificant are BP and ExxonMobil?

Multinational oil companies really have been eclipsed by their state-owned counterparts:

That's ExxonMobil coming in at number 17, as the first private company. It's 30 times smaller than Saudi Aramco by reserves, 20 times by production.

July 9, 2011

Dum-dum bullets and shoot to kill

The Metropolitan Police are armed with bullets that the army wouldn't be allowed to use.

Hollow-tipped bullets are designed to expand inside the body on impact, making them much more likely to kill whoever they hit. The generals of the 19th century decided that they were too lethal for war, despite British arguments that they were needed to stop 'fanatical barbarian[s]'.

So they were banned under the 1899 Hague Convention**, along with chemical weapons and bombs thrown from airships. NATO still keeps to that, though perhaps few other armies do.

The police, through, are unaffected. So the Met used these these bullets to kill Jean Charles de Menezes, and this year they started using them more generally.

Now, there's a decent argument that this isn't as bad as it sounds. If a bullet is busy mashing your victim's organs, it's less likely to pass through and hit whoever is behind them. I thoroughly approve of not killing bystanders, but a little confused how that works alongside the policy of giving machine guns to the transport police

Or, more fundamentally: the UK police already kill about 90 people per year -- let's not make it any easier?

[disclaimer: I know nothing about guns, would be happy to never see one again in my life, and wish the police agreed]